James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney, 16 May 1799

From Charles Pinckney

South Carolina May 16: 1799

Dear Sir

I have no doubt you have recieved my communications at large from Mr Nicholas.1 I prefered speaking to him & Mr Venable to writing, as many of my letters have been intercepted. I was glad to find, whether in consequence of those or not, that you have again appeared in the State Legislature. Be assured I cannot think you were ever right to leave public life—in times like the present I can never suppose any man is justified in doing so, much less one whose talents, knowledge & Experience of public Business so well qualify him for actively interfering in it.

As I believe you are well acquainted with my handwriting—to prevent accidents, I shall in future omit my signature when I write you. This I shall do at large whenever I have a more certain opportunity than the present—my particular object at present is to impress upon yourself & Mr. Giles & Mr Brent & the Gentlemen of influence in yr State Legislature the necessity of their altering at their next session the mode of electing Electors of a President of the United States & following our Example in this state by Vesting in the Legislature the right of electing, by joint Ballott the Electors, either out of their own Body or the People att [sic] Large—this is essential to the Success of such Elections as will be pushed & as are necessary to our peace & public happiness should be carried, & you must do it at your next session or it will be too late.2

I shall endeavour to impress the necessity of a similar step on such of our Friends in North Carolina & Georgia as I am acquainted with & I wish you & our friends in Virginia would do the same on all whom you believe have influence in North Carolina Kentucky & in Tenesee. I hope that neither you or any of them will hesitate on taking this Step as I know on it every thing depends.

I am to request you will Believe me with regard & affection Yours Truly

Charles Pinckney

I think it of so much consequence to have the Elections of Electors in North Carolina in their state Legislature by joint Ballott tha⟨t⟩ whenever I can discover where Mr Bloodworth3 & General Macdowell4 reside I shall write them on the subject—in the interim I will thank you, if you have an opportunity to write them also & have it done at their next session. I beg again to impress on you the necessity of this, as it was by the loss of two Votes ⟨in⟩ your State & North Carolina the last Election was lost.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Misdated 16 May 1788 in Index to the James Madison Papers.

1No evidence of a meeting between JM and John Nicholas has been found.

2Although Virginia did not adopt Charles Pinckney’s suggestion, the assembly did enact a measure in the legislative session of 1799–1800 that secured the election of presidential electors on a general ticket rather than by districts as had previously been the practice. The law ensured that all of Virginia’s electoral vote would be cast by the majority party (Cunningham, The Jeffersonian Republicans, pp. 144–45).

3Timothy Bloodworth (1736–1814) was an early and prominent Whig, vocal Antifederalist, and strong Republican who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives (1790–95) and the Senate (1795–1801). President Jefferson appointed him collector of the port of Wilmington in 1801, a position he resigned in 1807 (Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 1:177).

4Gen. Joseph MacDowell (1756–1801) of Burke County, North Carolina, was a Revolutionary War veteran who had fought at Kings Mountain and Cowpens. After voting against the ratification of the Constitution in the North Carolina convention in 1788, MacDowell was an early and vociferous opponent of administration policies during his two terms (1793–95 and 1797–99) in the U.S. House of Representatives (John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584–1851 … [2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1851], 2:57, 60–61; J. D. Bailey, Commanders at Kings Mountain [1926; Greenville, S.C., 1980 reprint], pp. 344, 367–69; Delbert H. Gilpatrick, Jeffersonian Democracy in North Carolina, 1789–1816 [New York, 1967], pp. 37, 61, 70 n. 2, 85, 87, 88, 92).

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